- $54 million: With Lawrence school construction winding down, the district offers a look at what taxpayers paid for (08-26-07)
- Students get their bearings on first day in new school (08-21-07)
- Chat about school construction with Tom Bracciano (transcript)(07-11-07)
- Chat about school construction projects with Tom Bracciano (transcript)(04-25-07)
- Construction in high gear at city schools (09-19-06)
Just as work wraps up on the $54 million bond issue that helped improve Lawrence's secondary schools, board members have another set of building improvement requests on the table.
This time, it's a backlog of projects at the elementary schools that totals about $16.5 million, including additions to replace portable classrooms and plumbing improvements.
"That's the ultimate long-term issue this board or a future board is going to have to deal with," Superintendent Randy Weseman said. "Do you do it piece-meal, or you take off chunks with a bond?"
School principals and their site councils are now revising the list.
About 36 months since voters agreed to the improvements for secondary schools and Broken Arrow Elementary, some board members are mentioning another, though smaller, bond issue to address elementary school facilities.
"I think we need to study what we need and find out what other avenues we might have, so that we could put the most economical method in front of the voter," school board member Craig Grant said. "And I don't know that we'll be able to do that this year."
Linda Robinson, the school board's president, said a bond issue is probably five years away as the district figures out how to prioritize projects.
A majority of board members have expressed interest in having Weseman present them some options in the next month for improving outdoor athletic facilities at both high schools, including possibly moving away from playing football at Haskell Stadium.
"There are a lot of needs, and there's never easy answers," board member John Mitchell said. "We always have to talk things through and listen to each other and decide what's collectively best for the district."
Weseman has said it appeared the district would have enough to retire about $3 million worth of projects from the list within the next year. The list of requests is the longest at Cordley, Hillcrest and Sunset Hill elementary schools.
Tom Bracciano, the district's division director of operations and facility planning, walked through sections of the district's oldest elementary building, Cordley, 1837 Vt., on Friday.
"I think it's somewhat symbolic of what we're looking at our deferred maintenance items for our elementary schools," Bracciano said.
He would like to see upgrades, particularly to the antiquated restrooms there and to installing a new heating and air-conditioning system, which is estimated to cost $1.1 million. Many of the older school buildings need restroom renovations, he said.
Bracciano is also working on a way to attack some of the projects using performance contracting, a way to finance projects by using energy-efficient materials. The operational savings over many years can be written off to help pay for the projects.
The district hopes to address major mechanical and plumbing issues through performance contracting.
Sunset Hill and other schools want more classroom space to replace the portable classrooms.
"It's obviously easier to monitor security issues when you have an enclosed building," said Chris Bay, the Sunset Hill principal.
The school currently has two fifth-grade classes and one art room and a music room in the trailers outside the main building. The trailers are a constant vandalism target, Bay said.
"I know they've got rid of them in other places, and so I would hope they continue to address that issue for Sunset Hill," said Chris Keary, chairman of Sunset Hill's site council.
Adding five additional classrooms there would cost $1.25 million, and new rooms for art and music are estimated at $250,000 each.
For many years, Sunset Hill has also requested a new gymnasium, separate from the cafeteria, to help with scheduling. Its cost is $1 million, along with $250,000 for a new parking area.
"The real problem we face is the longer we wait, the more expensive it gets to address," Bay said.
Bracciano said the district's boundary committee could make some changes that would adjust enrollment to take some portable classrooms out of play for now.
But Robinson, the school board president, said any building expansions would likely have to fall under another bond issue in four to five years.
"It's just so large right now that we're going to have to do these little steps," she said.